99-Million-Year-Old Beetle With Pollen Grains Found In Amber

Posted: Aug 19 2018, 12:24pm CDT | by , Updated: Aug 21 2018, 7:11am CDT, in Latest Science News


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99-Million-Year-Old Beetle with Pollen Grains Found in Amber
Credit: Chenyang Cai

Researchers have uncovered the earliest definitive fossil evidence of the special relationship between cycads and insects.

Beetles are among the most important pollinators in the world and a new fossil evidence suggests that they were pollinating plants millions of years ago.

Researchers have found an ancient boganiid beetle preserved in Burmese amber along with grains of cycad pollen. The beetle, named Cretoparacucujus cycadophilus, lived about 99 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

“Boganiid beetles have been ancient pollinators for cycads since the Age of Cycads and Dinosaurs," said Chenyang Cai from the University of Bristol. "Our find indicates a probable ancient origin of beetle pollination of cycads at least in the Early Jurassic, long before angiosperm dominance and the radiation of flowering-plant pollinators, such as bees, later in the Cretaceous.”

The ancient beetle was discovered in the town of Tanai in northern Myanmar. It became stuck in sticky tree sap that later fossilized into amber. The large jaws of the beetle with cavity indicated that the insect was a pollinator of cycads. When researchers placed the fossil under the microscope, they found several clumps of tiny pollen grains inside amber. Preserved with the beetle, the grains revealed that the beetle was carrying cycad pollen just before it died.

“I just wanted to know what was this pollen. It’s not on the body of the beetle, but it’s very close to the beetle and to its mouth part.” Cai told the New York Times.

Further analysis revealed that the beetle is closely related to the extent Australian Paracucujus, which pollinated the cycad Macrozamia riedlei. Cretoparacucujus cycadophilus was a two-millimeter-long insect with a large head, sharp claws, and big antennae.

While beetles are known to pollinate plants, no conclusive fossil evidence has ever been recovered showing them carrying cycad. Above all, ancient beetles are rarely found trapped in amber. It is the first time that researchers have found an ancient beetle preserved in a piece of amber with cycad pollen.

Cycad may have been the first insect-pollinated plants. These plants look much like palms but they belong to a separate, distinct group and first appeared on Earth about 270 million years ago.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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